Wherever Ken Block goes, he leaves fanfare in his wake. Any rally that the Hoonigan Racing Division driver enters, he will be followed.
The Otago Rally is used to welcoming international superstars to New Zealand, but pulling in Block and Alex Gelsomino is about as big as it gets.
And Block hasn’t been to Otago once, but twice. First visiting back in 2007 – just his second year of rallying – as part of a four-rally program in the land of the long white cloud, Block returned eight years later, then in his bespoke Ford Fiesta HFHV.
Perhaps the biggest endorsement to the event organizer is that Block wasn’t invited over to the rally as a special guest; he came of his own volition to experience one of the best events anywhere in the world.
It's a typical New Zealand rally with great stages and lots of crests and banked turns, but it's more challenging than the northern ralliesKen Block on the southern island roads of Otago
“I’ve done it a couple of times, I can’t remember if I’ve had much success there,” he told DirtFish.
He hasn’t, retiring in 2007 with an electrical problem and in 2015 with an engine issue. But the impression the rally has left on Block – who’s rallied all over the world – is massive.
“It’s an incredible rally,” Block continued. “It’s a typical New Zealand rally with great stages and lots of crests and banked turns, but it’s more challenging than the northern rallies; it’s way down south.
“I actually stayed in Queenstown on vacation before I drove there to shift my sleep time, but it’s just an incredibly challenging rally.
“It’s got the classic banked turns and fun, big crests but it’s also got some difficult and different challenging stages there.
“But definitely one of the best rallies I’ve ever been to, definitely one of the best rallies in New Zealand, so I’d love to go back some day.”
Endorsements don’t get much better than that. If Otago is good enough for Ken Block, it’s good enough for anyone.
Norman and Roger Oakley, you know what to do next. A Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on the Otago Rally would be quite something, wouldn’t it.